NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Powerful storms that raked across several states in the eastern U.S. on Sunday destroyed at least 10 homes in Tennessee, but there were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries, authorities said.
Spokeswoman Gina Breeding with the office of emergency management in east Tennessee's Claiborne County told The Associated Press that officers searched ruined homes Sunday night in one particularly hard-hit community, Speedwell. She said the county sheriff and his wife safely took refuge in their basement when storms hit and destroyed their home.
"He and his wife are both OK," Breeding said by telephone, adding law enforcement officials had set up a command post for operations and a school was opened for anyone left homeless.
Later Sunday night, she said a second shelter in the area had been opened but that authorities still had no reports of injuries or deaths.
Breeding said the county emergency management and homeland security office hadn't confirmed whether the destruction was the result of a possible tornado, but noted there were high winds, lightning and heavy thunderstorms in the region Sunday.
"There are power lines and trees down," she said by phone. She said 10 homes and a grocery store were destroyed in the Speedwell area.
Dean Flener of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency in Nashville said the storms roughed up at least seven of the 36 counties in east Tennessee, dropping trees, power lines and even large hail in spots.
Elsewhere, news photographs showed a covered walkway that had collapsed in the Tennessee City of Knoxville and there were reports of damage near Kingston and other communities.
"I do know Tennessee has deployed some Tennessee Highway Patrol strike teams in some counties in east Tennessee, closing off roads," Flener told AP by phone. "You don't want people wandering into areas with damage."
Terry Getz, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the Morristown, Tennessee, office said forecasters would be trying to determine whether a tornado might have been responsible for the damage near Speedwell, though nothing had been confirmed yet. He said that the radar showed strong indications of a tornado and that the weather service would survey the area Monday.
"Even though we don't have a lot of information right now, I'm sure tomorrow people will get out and see damage," he said.